U of A leads the nation in nursing and petroleum engineering based on latest QS subject rankings

Eighteen subjects rank among Top 100 in the world, highlighting the institution’s continued excellence at an international level.

University of Alberta nursing students attend a class. (Photo: Laughing Dog Photography)

Nursing and petroleum engineering at the University of Alberta rank top in Canada in their subject areas, according to the latest QS subject rankings. The institution as a whole climbed 16 spots to rank fourth in Canada and 110th internationally. (Photo: Laughing Dog Photography)

The University of Alberta remains the best place in Canada to study nursing and petroleum engineering, according to the 2023 QS World University Rankings by Subject

Eighteen subjects at the U of A ranked in the Top 100 internationally. The institution as a whole climbed 16 spots to rank fourth in Canada and 110th internationally out of 1,597 institutions ranked. 

The U of A’s rankings improved in all five broad subject areas reviewed — life science and medicine (69th), engineering and tech (93rd), natural sciences (112th), social sciences and management (152nd) and arts and humanities (171st). 

“These rankings demonstrate that the University of Alberta continues to be one of Canada’s top universities and among the very best globally,” says U of A president and vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan. “Our upward trajectory in all five broad subjects means we will continue to climb in global rankings, building on our record of international leadership in research and teaching.”

Consistent excellence in nursing

The U of A’s nursing program has consistently been a high performer in a number of rankings and remains first in Canada for the second consecutive year in the QS subject rankings. It has also climbed steadily on a global scale, moving from 23rd in the world in 2019 to fifth worldwide this year.

“These rankings cement the Faculty of Nursing’s internationally regarded expertise in nursing research, leadership and practice,” says Diane Kunyk, acting dean of the Faculty of Nursing. “The continued improvement signals that our faculty is truly building something very special for the profession of nursing that enhances the health and well-being of Albertans, Canadians and beyond.”

Researchers within the faculty — which boasts three Canada Research Chairs — are studying everything from nursing ethics to how nursing students can keep pace with rapid advances in digital health. They are also leading the charge from an education standpoint. With over a century of excellence in nursing, the U of A was the first in Alberta to offer a master’s program in nursing, the first in Canada to provide a publicly funded doctoral program and the first in Canada to offer a distance doctoral program option.

“We continue to attract the best and brightest to our nursing programs. Our tight-knit community values mentorship and a culture of excellence — in teaching, research and clinical care — and nurtures students to become the next generation of nursing leaders,” says Kunyk.

Leading in engineering

The U of A likewise remains a leader in petroleum engineering, ranked first in Canada for the fourth consecutive year and coming in fifth in the world this year. 

“Our faculty’s continued focus on supporting unmatched experiential learning opportunities, research and teaching are key to our success,” says Simaan Abourizk, dean of the Faculty of Engineering. “These rankings are reflective of our ongoing efforts to train future engineering leaders.” 

Several other subjects within the engineering field were lauded in this year’s QS subject rankings: chemical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, civil and structural engineering, and mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing engineering all ranked within the top six in the nation, and mineral and mining engineering was tied with the University of British Columbia for second in Canada and 10th internationally. 

Researchers in the faculty are bringing their innovative ideas and research to multiple fields, from improving the reliability and efficiency of self-driving vehicles to creating a communications system that could help protect soldiers in combat. The faculty also boasts a co-op program that helps students gain a competitive edge in their fields through hands-on training and practical experience.

Collaborating for strength in pharmacy and pharmacology

Several other subjects experienced a significant boost in rankings, including pharmacy and pharmacology, which rose nearly 40 spots internationally from 85th in 2022 to 49th this year. 

Though the QS subject rankings combine the two fields in one subject area, the U of A splits the work in this field between the Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Department of Pharmacology, housed within the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, with many fruitful collaborations fostering connections between the two areas.

Pharmacology researchers at the U of A have particular strength in molecular pharmacology, neuropharmacology, cardiovascular pharmacology, and diabetes and obesity research. The faculty features the only pharmacy school since 1914 to offer both graduate and professional programs, collectively helping to inspire and train the next generation of both researchers and practising professionals in the field. 

“Today, our researchers are at the forefront of drug discovery, delivery and development. They are leaders in pharmacology and toxicology, clinical and health services research who are dedicated to improving drug efficacy and safety and enriching the health and well-being of our community and patients,” says Christine Hughes, interim dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. 

“We are dedicated and passionate about keeping this momentum going. Our students are being offered learning opportunities and subject-matter expertise in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences that ensures they are exceptionally trained to meet the demands of the workforce of tomorrow,” Hughes adds. 

As the scope of practice continues to change and expand for pharmacists practising in Alberta, the faculty has responded to shifting demands and remained aware of parameters of the field its students are entering. Many research projects have a direct impact on the community, such as a recent study that sought to make sexual health testing more accessible through collaborations with community pharmacies. 

“These past few years have changed the landscape of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences,” says Hughes. “However, despite the challenges we faced, today’s rankings show we continue to push the boundaries on developing leading-edge research and enhance the learning opportunities for our students.”

Educating tomorrow’s best educators

The Faculty of Education moved up six spots to 81st in the world and fifth in Canada, thanks to work that shapes educational policies and curriculum at every level. 

“I’m so grateful to our faculty, whose incredible teaching, research and community-engaged work are central to the national and international reputation reflected in these rankings, and to our talented and resourceful support staff for all they do to lift us up,” says Jennifer Tupper, dean of the Faculty of Education. “The commitment of faculty and staff to our students and our communities, and to fostering an atmosphere where excellence and innovation can thrive, is unflagging even as global challenges continue to reshape the field of education.”

One example is the reading intervention program designed by George Georgiou and his team that has helped reading levels among young learners in grade school rebound to pre-pandemic levels. The faculty also recently transitioned to a non-departmentalized structure that facilitates collaboration between program areas.

Additional high-performing subjects include sports-related subjects (19th), anatomy and physiology (33rd), agriculture and forestry (76th), medicine (92nd) and accounting and finance (99th), with earth and marine studies, geology, geophysics, veterinary science and dentistry rounding out the top 100.